On 27 October 1838 Lilburn W. Boggs, governor of Missouri, issued an order that read in part: “The Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary for the public good” (History of the Church, 3:175). Four days later the Prophet and several leaders of the Church were betrayed into the hands of the Missourians at Far West, Missouri. For the next several weeks Joseph Smith and his associates were abused and insulted, forced to march to Independence and then to Richmond, and on 30 November 1838 incarcerated in Liberty Jail in Missouri (see History of the Church, 3:188–89, 215). These men had not been convicted of any crime; nevertheless, they were held in the jail for several months.
The Prophet Joseph Smith and his companions (Hyrum Smith, Lyman Wight, Caleb Baldwin, Alexander McRae and, for part of the time, Sidney Rigdon) suffered greatly while they were held in the jail awaiting trial on false charges: “Many inhumanities were heaped upon them while they were there. Insufficient and improper food was their daily fare; at times only the inspiration of the Lord saved them from the indulgence of poisoned food, which all did not escape. [Alexander McRae said, ‘We could not eat it until we were driven to it by hunger’ (Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:521).]
“The jail had no sleeping quarters, and thus they were forced to seek rest and recuperation on beds of straw placed on hardened plank and stone floors. They were suffered very little contact with the outside world, especially during the first month or so of their confinement. And this, at a crucial time when the Latter-day Saints were at the peak of persecution in Missouri, and were desperately in need of their prophet-leader.” (Dyer, Refiner’s Fire, pp. 275–76.)
Occasionally they were permitted visits at the jail from friends and were allowed to send and receive correspondence. Between 20 March and 25 March 1839, the Prophet Joseph dictated a lengthy communication that was signed by all the prisoners (actually there were two letters, although the Prophet identified the second as a continuation of the first). President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote of this correspondence: “This is one of the greatest letters that was ever penned by the hand of man. In fact it was the result of humble inspiration. It is a prayer and a prophecy and an answer by revelation from the Lord. None other but a noble soul filled with the spirit of love of Christ could have written such a letter. Considering [their sufferings], it is no wonder that the Prophet cried out in the anguish of his soul for relief. Yet, in his earnest pleading, there breathed a spirit of tolerance and love for his fellow man.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:176.)
Sections 121–23 were extracted from this communication and included in the 1876 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. The edition of the Doctrine and Covenants that included these three sections was sustained as scripture in the October 1880 conference of the Church. (For a full text of the letters, see History of the Church, 3:289–305.)
A published account of the letters in the Times and Seasons did not contain some parts of the original letters that are found in the Doctrine and Covenants. The Reorganized church pointed out this fact and challenged the Doctrine and Covenants account. The original letters, however, now located in the Church archives, vindicate the account as published in the Doctrine and Covenants (see Deseret Evening News, 27 June 1896, p.4).
“These are expressions used by the authors of the Bible. When David says, ‘He made darkness his hiding-place, his pavilion round about him; darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies’ (Ps. 18:11), he considers the darkness of the thundercloud as a tent, or pavilion, in which Jehovah dwells in His majesty. The thunder-bolts, the hail, the wind, are His messengers. The Prophet Joseph, by using this grand, poetic conception, entreats the Lord to manifest Himself in His power for the salvation of the Saints from their enemies.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 753.)
James E. Faust taught about the beneficial effects of adversity.
Elder James E. Faust said: “In the pain, the agony, and the heroic endeavors of life, we pass through a refiner’s fire, and the insignificant and the unimportant in our lives can melt away like dross and make our faith bright, intact, and strong. In this way the divine image can be mirrored from the soul. It is part of the purging toll exacted of some to become acquainted with God. In the agonies of life, we seem to listen better to the faint, godly whisperings of the Divine Shepherd.”
Elder Faust noted that “unfortunately, some of our greatest tribulations are the result of our own foolishness and weakness and occur because of our own carelessness or transgression” (James E. Faust, in Conference Report, Apr. 1979, pp. 77–78; or Ensign, May 1979, pp. 53–54). Other afflictions are the result of disease and weakness of the mortal body. Some adversity is the result of wicked individuals misusing their agency. Also, God’s judgments against the wicked cause famine, pestilence, earthquakes, and other tribulations.
But at least as important as the cause of adversity is how the Lord uses it to perfect us. President Brigham Young said that Joseph Smith progressed toward perfection more in thirty-eight years because of his trials than he would have been able to do in a thousand years without them (see Journal of Discourses, 2:7).
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “I feel like Paul, to glory in tribulation” (D&C 127:2). The Savior’s life is the perfect example of enduring tribulation (see D&C 122:7–8). If we can look to the Savior or to the Prophet as models of endurance, we can find hope and strength to endure our own afflictions.
Elder Marion G. Romney said: “All . . . who are being tried in the crucible of adversity and affliction: Take courage; revive your spirits and strengthen your faith. In these lessons so impressively taught in precept and example by our great exemplar, Jesus Christ, and his Prophet of the restoration, Joseph Smith, we have ample inspiration for comfort and for hope.
“If we can bear our afflictions with the understanding, faith, and courage, and in the spirit in which they bore theirs, we shall be strengthened and comforted in many ways. We shall be spared the torment which accompanies the mistaken idea that all suffering comes as chastisement for transgression. . . .
“We can draw assurance from the Lord’s promise that ‘he that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven.
“‘Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, [he said,] the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow much tribulation.
“‘For after much tribulation come the blessings. . . .’ (D&C 58:2–4.)” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1969, p. 59.)
Elder George Q. Cannon taught: “The Saints should not imagine that because they know the truth and the Work of God at the present time, that they will always know these things and therefore be able to stand. If they lose the Holy Spirit through their transgressions, from that moment their knowledge respecting the Work of God ceases to increase and becomes dead; a short time only elapses before such persons deny the faith. They may not deny that the Work was ever true, or that the Elders were ever the servants of God, but they will place a limit and say, ‘Up to such a time the work was true and the Elders were all right, but, after that, they went astray,’—that very period being the time at which they themselves had committed some act or acts to forfeit the Spirit of God and kill the growth of that knowledge which they had had bestowed upon them. This has been the case in numerous instances in the past. . . . It is plain that it is they who have transgressed, and thereby driven the Spirit of the Lord from them; and at the very time they say the Church of God strayed, they themselves were guilty of transgression.” (“Knowledge, without the Aid of the Spirit of the Lord, Not Sufficient to Save,” Millennial Star, 8 Aug. 1863, pp. 505–6.)
Elder Heber J. Grant said: “Our enemies have never done anything that has injured this work of God, and they never will. I look around, I read, I reflect, and I ask the question, Where are the men of influence, of power and prestige, who have worked against the Latter-day Saints? Where is the reputation, for honor and courage, of the governors of Missouri and Illinois, the judges, and all others who have come here to Utah on special missions against the Latter-day Saints? Where are there people to do them honor? They can not be found. . . . Where are the men who have assailed this work? Where is their influence? They have faded away like dew before the sun. We need have no fears, we Latter-day Saints. God will continue to sustain this work; He will sustain the right. If we are loyal, if we are true, if we are worthy of this Gospel, of which God has given us a testimony, there is no danger that the world can ever injure us. We can never be injured . . . by any mortals, except ourselves.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1909, p. 110.)
President Joseph F. Smith stated that “the infidel will impart infidelity to his children if he can. The whoremonger will not raise a pure, righteous posterity. He will impart seeds of disease and misery, if not of death and destruction, upon his offspring, which will continue upon his children and descend to his children’s children to the third and fourth generation. It is perfectly natural that the children should inherit from their fathers, and if they sow the seeds of corruption, crime and loathsome disease, their children will reap the fruits thereof. Not in accordance with God’s wishes for His wish is that men will not sin and therefore will not transmit the consequences of their sin to their children, but that they will keep His commandments, and be free from sin and from entailing the effects of sin upon their offspring; but inasmuch as men will not hearken unto the Lord, but will become a law unto themselves, and will commit sin they will justly reap the consequences of their own iniquity, and will naturally impart its fruits to their children to the third and fourth generation.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1912, p. 9; see also D&C 124:50.)
Divine light and encouragement were revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith while he was imprisoned in Liberty Jail.
This section and the two following are excerpts from letters written by the Prophet Joseph Smith from Liberty Jail. The Prophet’s comments that preceded this passage were not included in the Doctrine and Covenants but are of interest in setting the stage for his comments on the gifts of the Holy Ghost:
“The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.
“How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations—too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of His will, from before the foundation of the world! We are called to hold the keys of the mysteries of those things that have been kept hid from the foundation of the world until now. Some have tasted a little of these things, many of which are to be poured down from heaven upon the heads of babes; yea, upon the weak, obscure and despised ones of the earth. Therefore we beseech of you, brethren, that you bear with those who do not feel themselves more worthy than yourselves, while we exhort one another to a reformation with one and all, both old and young, teachers and taught, both high and low, rich and poor, bond and free, male and female; let honesty, and sobriety, and candor, and solemnity, and virtue, and pureness, and meekness, and simplicity crown our heads in every place; and in fine, become as little children, without malice, guile or hypocrisy.
“And now, brethren, after your tribulations, if you do these things, and exercise fervent prayer and faith in the sight of God always, [D&C 121:26–32].” (History of the Church, 3:295–96.)
The gift of the Holy Ghost has been enjoyed by faithful Saints since the world began. But in the dispensation of the fulness of times all the keys, powers, and principles known in past dispensations individually are now enjoyed collectively. In addition, the revealed organization of the earthly kingdom is, as President Harold B. Lee said, “more perfected than in the past dispensations” (Stand Ye in Holy Places, p. 273; see also p. 322).
President Wilford Woodruff gave firm counsel on this question: “I want to say this to all Israel: Cease troubling yourselves about who God is; who Adam is, who Christ is, who Jehovah is. For heaven’s sake, let these things alone. Why trouble yourselves about these things? God has revealed Himself, and when the 121st section of the Doctrine and Covenants is fulfilled, whether there be one God or many gods they will be revealed to the children of men, as well as thrones and dominions, principalities, and powers. Then why trouble yourselves about these things? God is God. Christ is Christ. The Holy Ghost is the Holy Ghost. That should be enough for you and me to know. If we want to know any more, wait till we get where God is in person.” (In Millennial Star, 6 June 1895, pp. 355–56.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that “from the very beginning Satan through his emissaries, has endeavored to destroy this work and to stop the Church from receiving revelation. The Lord has given to the Church knowledge and guidance constantly suited to their advancement. There is much that is still held in store, many great and important truths, when we are prepared to receive them. The Lord has promised to give revelation ‘and commandments not a few,’ to the faithful who are diligent before the Lord. (D. & C. 59:4.)” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:177.)
President Spencer W. Kimball noted: “There are those who would assume that with the printing and binding of these sacred records, that would be the ‘end of the prophets.’ But again we testify to the world that revelation continues and that the vaults and files of the Church contain these revelations which come month to month and day to day.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1977, p. 115; or Ensign, May 1977, p. 78.)
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “I take it that every man who is ordained to an office in the priesthood has been called. The Lord is willing that any man should serve him.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1945, p. 97.)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie indicated:
“To be called is to be a member of the Church and kingdom of God on earth; it is to be numbered with the saints; it is to accept the gospel and receive the everlasting covenant; it is to have part and lot in the earthly Zion; it is to be born again, to be a son or a daughter of the Lord Jesus Christ; to have membership in the household of faith; it is to be on the path leading to eternal life and to have the hope of eternal glory; it is to have a conditional promise of eternal life; it is to be an inheritor of all the blessings of the gospel, provided there is continued obedience to the laws and ordinances thereof.
“Within this over-all framework, there are individual calls to positions of trust and responsibility, but these are simply assignments to labor on the Lord’s errand, in particular places, for a time and a season. The call itself is to the gospel cause; it is not reserved for apostles and prophets or for the great and mighty in Israel; it is for all the members of the kingdom.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:326.)
N. Eldon Tanner explained why some are called but not chosen.
President N. Eldon Tanner interpreted this passage as referring to those who fail to magnify their priesthood or who use it as it should not be used: “I know of many cases where a man has gradually failed to magnify his priesthood and moved away from activity in the Church. As a result, a man who has been very active loses his testimony and the Spirit of the Lord withdraws from him, and he begins to criticize those in authority, and to persecute the saints, apostatize, and fight against God.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1970, p. 52.)
President Tanner later said:
“We must not be nearly dependable, but always dependable. Let us be faithful in the little things, as well as the big ones. Can I be depended upon to fill every assignment, whether it be for a two-and-a-half minute talk, home teaching, a visit to the sick, or a call as a stake or full-time missionary?
“Remember, . . . there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
“‘Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, . . .’ (D&C 121:34–35), and they are not dependable.” (“Dependability,” Ensign, Apr. 1974, p. 5.)
Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–35 shows how our attitudes and actions determine whether we are chosen:
When the hearts of men—
1. Are set on the things of the world, or
2. Aspire to the honors of men,
They will act in ways detrimental to spiritual growth, including—
1. Covering their sins.
2. Gratifying their pride and vain ambitions.
3. Exercising unrighteous dominion over others.
These actions cause—
1. The heavens to withdraw themselves.
2. The Spirit of the Lord to be grieved.
3. A withdrawal of power and authority.
This can also be stated positively:
When the hearts of men—
1. Are set on the things of God, and
2. Aspire to God’s approval,
They will act in ways beneficial to spiritual growth, including—
1. Repenting of their sins.
2. Humbling themselves.
3. Seeking the kingdom of God first.
4. Exercising love and charity toward others.
These actions cause—
1. The heavens to draw near.
2. The Spirit of the Lord to be near.
3. An increase in power and authority.
Elder Howard W. Hunter explained: “This proverbial expression of kicking against the pricks usually refers to the ox goad which was a piece of pointed iron stuck in the end of a stick used to urge the ox while drawing the plow. Sometimes a stubborn ox will kick back against the goad only to receive its sharpness more severely. It has become a proverb to signify the absurdity of rebelling against lawful authority.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1964, p. 108.)
Elder Orson F. Whitney noted: “All men who hold position do not abuse its privileges, and the man who serves God humbly and faithfully never will, for the moment he yielded to the temptation so to do, that moment would he cease to serve the Lord; but there are many, alas! who sadly misuse the functions of their office, and prostitute every power and privilege to the gratification of self and the injury and embarrassment of their fellow men. It is dangerous to put some men into power. They swell up and become so distended with the ideas of their greatness and importance, that we are forcibly reminded of so many inflated toy balloons, which the slightest prick of a pin would burst and ruin forever. A very small office and a very little authority is sufficient to intoxicate some men and render them entirely unfit for duty.” (In Rich, Scrapbook of Mormon Literature, 2:511–12.)
Following the principles in these verses allows the priesthood holder to receive greater power. If a priesthood holder senses this power withdrawing because of the presence of compulsion, contention, disunity, or rebellion, he should immediately evaluate his actions to be sure he has not been exercising unrighteous dominion.
There is a relationship between home and priesthood duties. President Hugh B. Brown said: “I should like to say to you fathers tonight that our conduct in our homes determines in large measure our worthiness to hold and exercise the priesthood, which is the power of God delegated to man. Almost any man can make a good showing when on parade before the public, but one’s integrity is tested when ‘off duty.’ The real man is seen and known in the comparative solitude of the home. An office or title will not erase a fault nor guarantee a virtue.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1962, p. 88.)
And though these verses refer to the priesthood, their principles apply to all who serve in the Church, family, or society at large.
Many people assume the word betimes means “occasionally” or “sometimes,” but this is not its primary meaning. To reprove betimes means to do so “at an early time, . . . in good time, in due time; while there is yet time, before it is too late, . . . in a short time, soon, speedily” (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “betimes”).
To garnish means to decorate or embellish. If virtue garnished all of a person’s thoughts, the sins of unchastity, dishonesty, greed, and so on would be eliminated. One’s thoughts have a direct bearing on one’s actions.
President Spencer W. Kimball pointed out that the early Apostles and prophets condemned various moral transgressions: “They included all sexual relations outside marriage—petting, sex perversion, masturbation, and preoccupation with sex in one’s thoughts and talking. Included are every hidden and secret sin and all unholy and impure thoughts and practices. . . .
“How we pray for you every meeting we hold, every night and morning in our homes, and every night in our bedrooms; we pray for you that you will keep yourselves clean. Clean—we mean clean from beginning to end. Free from all the ugly things the world is pushing upon us—the drugs, and drinking, and smoking, the vulgarity, the pornography—all those things you don’t need to participate in. You must not give yourselves to them.
“Put on the full armor of God. Attend to your personal and family prayers and family devotions; keep holy the Sabbath; live strictly the Word of Wisdom; attend to all family duties; and above all, keep your life clean and free from all unholy and impure thoughts and actions. Avoid all associations which degrade and lower the high, righteous standards set up for us. Then your life will sail smoothly and peace and joy will surround you.” (“President Kimball Speaks Out on Morality,” Ensign, Nov. 1980, pp. 95, 98.)
Elder James E. Talmage said that “any man may enter the highest degree of the celestial kingdom when his actions have been such that he can feel at home there” (Hugh B. Brown, Seek to Know the Shepherd [Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year, 9 Dec. 1959], p. 5).
President Marion G. Romney added: “I can think of no blessings to be more fervently desired than those promised to the pure and the virtuous. Jesus spoke of specific rewards for different virtues but reserved the greatest, so it seems to me, for the pure in heart, ‘for they,’ said he, ‘shall see God’ (Matt. 5:8). And not only shall they see the Lord, but they shall feel at home in his presence.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1979, p. 60; or Ensign, 1979, p. 42.)
Charity and virtue are implicit in all this section’s teachings on priesthood. The section’s last two verses should inspire us to keep our thoughts pure and lofty and our words and actions selfless and loving. Priesthood holders would profit by meditating on the promises in these verses. The following is not meant to sum up all that these verses mean but to suggest a few ways they might apply to us at a particular time. If we develop charity and virtue:
1. Our confidence in our ability to perform spiritual duties will increase.
2. We will gain a testimony of the priesthood and will receive inspiration to help us fulfill our callings.
3. We will have the constant companionship of a member of the Godhead.
4. Those we lead will follow us willingly, without our exercising any degree of force.
Section 121 applies to all who serve in the Church and family, and all can receive the blessings promised in these sublime verses.
The five months of imprisonment, abuse, malnutrition, and separation that the Prophet Joseph Smith and his friends suffered in Liberty Jail in Missouri contrast starkly with the sublime communication sent by the Prophet to the suffering Saints. The communication was recorded by the Prophet over a five-day period ending about 25 March 1839 and includes Doctrine and Covenants 121, 122, and 123 (see Historical Background for D&C 121).
The Church is now established in countries around the world. Wherever the Church exists, Satan tries to counteract its influence. Thousands of anti-Mormon pamphlets and dozens of books have been written to attack Joseph Smith and the kingdom. He has been called a fraud, deluded, and a tool of Satan. But as President Spencer W. Kimball said, besides fulfilling prophecy, this negative attention is in one way a good sign: “We can . . . tell that we are making progress by the attention we get from the adversary. . . . This has been the lot of the Lord’s people from the beginning, and it will be no different in our time.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1980, p. 6; or Ensign, May 1980, p. 6.) Millions of other individuals hold Joseph’s name in the highest esteem. Ultimately the kingdom of God will prevail.
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
“The Latter-day Saints who were acquainted with the Prophet personally, with very few exceptions, remained loyally true to him. There were some traitors in Nauvoo. One of the Prophet’s counselors became his bitter enemy and sought his life. One other failed to give him loyal support. Others who had been his friends joined hands with the enemies of the Church and sought to bring him to his death, but the great majority of the people remained loyal and true.
“The influence of traitors caused him great trouble and cast him ‘into bars and walls’ and to his death, yet his voice speaks through his works and is more terrible and disconcerting to his enemies than the roaring of the fierce lion, and even in his death he was not forsaken by the Lord. His people remained true and the Lord has blessed them.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:181.)
Joseph Smith: “Thou art not yet as Job” (D&C 121:10).
Elder Orson F. Whitney said:
“The Prophet was lying in a dungeon [Liberty, Missouri] for the gospel’s sake. He called upon God, ‘who controlleth and subjecteth the devil,’ and God answered telling him that his sufferings should be but ‘a small moment.’ ‘Thou art not yet as Job,’ said the Lord, ‘thy friends do not contend against thee.’ Job’s friends, it will be remembered, tried to convince him that he must have done something wrong or those trials would not have come upon him. But Job had done no wrong; it was ‘without cause’ that Satan had sought to destroy him. God said to Joseph: ‘If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; perils among robbers; perils by land and sea; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the billowing surge conspire against thee, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good.’
“There is the reason. It is for our development, our purification, our growth, our education and advancement, that we buffet the fierce waves of sorrow and misfortune; and we shall be all the stronger and better when we have swum the flood and stand upon the farther shore.” (Improvement Era, Nov. 1918, pp. 5–6.)
The Prophet, both at this time and before his incarceration in Liberty Jail, had suffered greatly at the hands of his enemies. The Savior told the Prophet to be of good cheer, that he understood exactly what Joseph was going through, for He had suffered even more. Such words, at once humbling and full of solace, could have been spoken by no mortal. No one can ever stand before the Savior and suggest that too much is asked. The Master has surpassed any possible suffering we may have to endure.
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “The Lord said that the bounds were set, his enemies could not pass. His days were known to the Lord, and notwithstanding his tribulation and persecutions and the hatred of the world, they should not be less. He was, therefore, not to fear what man can do, for through his faithfulness God would be with him for ever and ever. In this was the promise which comforted him, that suffering and the hatred of his enemies were not to shorten his life before the time appointed. There appears in this a foreshadowing of his martyrdom when his work should be finished.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:182.)
Doctrine and Covenants 123 is part of Joseph Smith’s epistle to the Church written in Liberty Jail, Missouri (see Historical Background for D&C 121).
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “The law of retribution is often slow, but it is sure. The Lord promised to punish his enemies and mete out to them suitable reward for all the evil they had heaped upon his servants. Punishment for sin does not always follow in this mortal life; the greater part of it quite generally is held in reserve for a future day. That records might be kept on earth as well as in heaven, the Lord commanded (Sec. 123) that there be gathered all the knowledge of all the acts, and sufferings and the abuses put upon the members of the Church by the State of Missouri. Also a record should be kept of all the property destroyed, the damages sustained, both to the character and the personal injuries and to the real property of the saints. The names of those who were engaged in this wickedness and these murders and drivings were also to be gathered and preserved. A committee was appointed to gather this evidence that it might be on file. This information would be of value when presented before the Government of the United States when the Church should seek justice at the seat of government. If redress could not be obtained there, then the evidence would stand against those who were guilty, before the Eternal Tribunal which will try all men and all things.
“This gathering of information was not to be confined to the deeds committed in Missouri, but should reach out to embrace the wickedness, falsehoods and deeds of those who fought the truth throughout all time. Magazine articles, writings in encyclopedias, all libelous histories, and other writings and ‘the whole concatenation of diabolical rascality and nefarious and murderous impositions that have been practiced upon this people,’ were to be gathered that they might be published to the world, sent to the heads of government ‘in all the dark and hellish hue, as the last effort which is enjoined on us by our Heavenly Father, before we can fully and completely claim that promise which shall call him forth from his hiding place; and also that the whole nation may be left without excuse before he can send forth the power of his mighty arm.’” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:182–83.)
The Nauvoo Expositor building where anti-Mormon literature was printed
Smith and Sjodahl commented on the wording of verse 7 as follows:
“It is an imperious duty that we owe to God] God knew that the Saints were not guilty of the crimes charged to them by enemies, and that they did not hold the doctrines credited to them, but inasmuch as they claimed to be the people of God, their vindication was, in a sense, the vindication of the Deity. If a master has a servant who is falsely accused of crime, in vindicating himself he vindicates the master, since his character reflects, to some extent, the character of his master. ‘As a master, so the servant.’
“To angels] The angels who are sent to administer to the Saints have a right to know whether such accusations are true or false.
“To ourselves, to our wives and children] Silence is sometimes more eloquent than words; but at this time it was necessary to place the accusers and persecutors in the limelight of public opinion, because wives and children had a right to know the full truth.” (Commentary, pp. 764–65.)
Many through the years, whether through malice or ignorance, have given false reports of the Church. Great numbers of honest people have believed and passed on these falsehoods because they had no better information. The Saints have a duty to keep the name of the Church unsullied, to defend its reputation, and to correct misrepresentations, so the pure in heart will have the information they need.
While we should oppose evil, the Lord has directed the Saints to show love for enemies of the Church. President Spencer W. Kimball closed a conference talk with this plea: “Brothers and sisters, pray for the critics of the Church; love your enemies. Keep the faith and stay on the straight and narrow path. Use wisdom and judgment in what you say and do, so that we do not give cause to others to hold the Church or its people in disrepute. Do not be surprised or dismayed if trials and challenges come upon us. This work, which Satan seeks in vain to tear down, is that which God has placed on earth to lift mankind up!” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1980, p. 6; or Ensign, May 1980, p. 6.)
As the years have come and gone, and the terrible injustices of Missouri have been revealed by the records and by the patience and righteousness of the Saints of God, the tardy remorse of that state is felt in a statement President Spencer W. Kimball delivered to the membership of the Church:
“Since our last conference we have had a delightful message from Christopher S. Bond, governor of the state of Missouri, who advised us that he has rescinded the 138-year-old executive order of Governor Lilburn W. Boggs calling for the extermination or expulsion of the Mormons from the state of Missouri. Governor Bond, present Missouri governor, writes:
“‘Expressing on behalf of all Missourians our deep regret for the injustice and undue suffering which was caused by this 1838 order, I hereby rescind Executive Order No. 44 dated October 27, 1838, issued by Governor Lilburn W. Boggs.’
“To Governor Bond and the people of Missouri, we extend our deep appreciation for this reversal and for the present friendly associations between the membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the people of Missouri as it is now in effect.
“In Missouri now we have five stakes in fifty-one communities, with approximately 15,000 members of the Church, who, we are confident, are law-abiding citizens of the state of Missouri. Thank you, Governor Bond.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1976, p. 4–5; or Ensign, Nov. 1976, p. 4.)
(By the year 2001 there was a temple in St. Louis and over 50,000 members of the Church in Missouri.)
“Most of the Saints expelled from the State of Missouri during the winter 1838–9, found their way into Illinois and Iowa. A majority of them went to Quincy, Ill., about 200 miles from Far West, and there they were kindly and hospitably received. Governor Carlin of Illinois, legislators, and private citizens vied with each other in proffering assistance and sympathy.
“Among the prominent citizens who, at this time, extended a helping hand to the Saints were Daniel H. Wells, a native of Trenton, New York, and Dr. Isaac Galland. Daniel H. Wells was the owner of a tract of land, which he divided into lots and which the exiles were offered, practically on their own terms. Dr. Galland, also, sold his land at a reasonable price and on the most favorable terms.
“The Prophet arrived at Quincy on the 22nd of April, 1839, and two days after, a Council was convened and resolutions were passed directing some of the Saints to go to [Iowa], and some to settle on Dr. Galland’s land, near Commerce, Ill. This location soon became the central gathering place, and its name was changed to Nauvoo. In the year 1841, when this Revelation was given, this beautiful city had about 3,000 inhabitants. A charter had been granted by the Illinois Legislature, by which Nauvoo was given a liberal municipal government, with authority to form a militia and erect a university. A Temple was about to be built. The scattered Saints were gathering, and the settlements in Illinois were growing rapidly. The mission in Great Britain was highly successful. Such were the general conditions when this Revelation was given. The Church had a moment’s rest. There was calm before the next storm.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 768.)
See Notes and Commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 1:19–20, 23.
The fulfillment of this directive from the Lord did not come until 1845. A number of individuals were to assist in preparing the document, but circumstances seem to have prevented it until later, when it was issued by the Twelve (see History of the Church, 6:80; 7:320, 558). In 1975 President Ezra Taft Benson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, reaffirmed the message of the proclamation for the world:
“Today I shall speak doctrine, by way of warning and of testimony, and shall do so as one holding the holy apostleship, whose responsibility it is to proclaim the Lord’s message in all the world and to all people. Each of my brethren of the Council of the Twelve has the same responsibility I have to declare these things to the world and to bear record of them before all men.
“Toward the end of his mortal ministry, the Lord commanded the Prophet Joseph Smith as follows:
“‘Make a solemn proclamation of my gospel . . . to all the kings of the world, to the four corners thereof . . . and to all nations of the earth.’ (D&C 124:2–3.) He was to invite them to come to the light of truth, and use their means to build up the kingdom of God on earth.
“In the spirit of this divine direction, on the sixth day of April 1845, and shortly after the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum had mingled their blood with that of the other martyrs of true religion, the Council of the Twelve made such a proclamation. . . .
“It seems fitting and proper to me that we should reaffirm the great truths pronounced in this declaration and that we should proclaim them anew to the world.
“To the rulers and peoples of all nations, we solemnly declare again that the God of heaven has established his latter-day kingdom upon the earth in fulfillment of prophecies. Holy angels have again communed with men on the earth. God has again revealed himself from heaven and restored to the earth his holy priesthood with power to administer in all the sacred ordinances necessary for the exaltation of his children. His church has been reestablished among men with all the spiritual gifts enjoyed anciently. All this is done in preparation for Christ’s second coming. The great and dreadful day of the Lord is near at hand. In preparation for this great event and as a means of escaping the impending judgments, inspired messengers have gone, and are now going, forth to the nations of the earth carrying this testimony and warning.
“The nations of the earth continue in their sinful and unrighteous ways. Much of the unbounded knowledge with which men have been blessed has been used to destroy mankind instead of to bless the children of men as the Lord intended. Two great world wars, with fruitless efforts at lasting peace, are solemn evidence that peace has been taken from the earth because of the wickedness of the people. Nations cannot endure in sin. They will be broken up, but the kingdom of God will endure forever.
“Therefore, as humble servants of the Lord, we call upon the leaders of nations to humble themselves before God, to seek his inspiration and guidance. We call upon rulers and people alike to repent of their evil ways. Turn unto the Lord, seek his forgiveness, and unite yourselves in humility with his kingdom. There is no other way. If you will do this, your sins will be blotted out, peace will come and remain, and you will become a part of the kingdom of God in preparation for Christ’s second coming. But if you refuse to repent or to accept the testimony of his inspired messengers and unite yourselves with God’s kingdom, then the terrible judgments and calamities promised the wicked will be yours. . . .
“When the voice of warning goes forth it is always attended by testimony. In the great declaration issued by the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ in 1845, this is the testimony which was borne, and we who are the apostles today renew it as our witness:
“‘We say, then, in life or in death, in bonds or free, that the great God has spoken in this age.—And we know it.
“‘He has given us the Holy Priesthood and Apostleship, and the keys of the kingdom of God, to bring about the restoration of all things as promised by the holy prophets of old.—And we know it.
“‘He has revealed the origin and the Records of the aboriginal tribes of America, and their future destiny.—And we know it.
“‘He has revealed the fulness of the gospel, with its gifts, blessings, and ordinances.—And we know it.
“‘He has commanded us to bear witness of it, first to the Gentiles, and then to the remnants of Israel and the Jews.—And we know it.
“‘He has also said that, if they do not repent, and come to the knowledge of the truth, . . . and also put away all murder, lying, pride, priestcraft, whoredom, and secret abomination, they shall soon perish from the earth, and be cast down to hell.—And we know it.
“‘He has said, that when . . . the gospel in all its fulness [is] preached to all nations for a witness and testimony, He will come, and all Saints with him, to reign on the earth one thousand years.—And we know it.
“‘He has said that he will not come in his glory and destroy the wicked, till these warnings were given and these preparations were made for his reception.—And we know it.
“‘Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one jot or tittle of his revealed word shall fail to be fulfilled.
“‘Therefore, again we say to all people, Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for remission of sins; and you shall receive the Holy Spirit, and shall know the truth, and be numbered with the house of Israel.’ (Messages of the First Presidency, 1:263–64.)” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1975, pp. 46–49; or Ensign, Nov. 1975, pp. 32–34.)
Other proclamations concerning the Church, its message and its mission, have been issued from time to time, but this early declaration best exemplifies the Lord’s instruction in the revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants. (For a more recent example of an official proclamation by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, see “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, p. 102.)
“The servants of the Lord are encouraged to proclaim the Gospel to kings and rulers without fear, for ‘they are as grass.’ Their power and glory are transient. The gospel is the only permanent factor in human history. The Priesthood is eternal.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 769.)
In May 1841 Robert B. Thompson was appointed an associate editor of the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo. He served in that capacity until August 1841, when he died at age thirty, never able to fulfill the divine commission. (See History of the Church, 4:411–12.)
President Heber J. Grant said: “No mortal man who ever lived in this Church desired more to do good than did Hyrum Smith, the patriarch. I have it from the lips of my own sainted mother, that of all the men she was acquainted with in her girlhood days in Nauvoo, she admired Hyrum Smith most for his absolute integrity and devotion to God, and his loyalty to the prophet of God.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1920, p. 84.)
Hyrum Smith, an example of integrity and devotion to God
Smith and Sjodahl wrote that John C. Bennett “was well educated and possessed many gifts and accomplishments. He was a physician, a university professor, and a brigadier-general. On the 27th of July, 1840, he offered his services to the Church. The Prophet Joseph replied, inviting him to come to Commerce, if he felt so disposed, but warned him at the same time not to expect exaltation ‘in this generation,’ from devotion to the cause of truth and a suffering people; nor worldly riches; only the approval of God. The outcome of the correspondence was that he joined the Church and rose to prominent positions among the Saints. His fellowship with the people of God did not last long, however. On the 25th of May, 1842, he was notified that the leaders of the Church did no longer recognize him as a member, because of his impure life, and shortly afterwards the Church took action against him. Then he became one of the most bitter enemies of the Church. His slanders, his falsehoods and unscrupulous attacks, which included perjury and attempted assassination were the means of inflaming public opinion to such an extent that the tragedy at Carthage became possible.
“Why, then, did his name appear, in this Revelation, as that of a trusted assistant of Joseph? John Taylor furnishes the answer to that question. He says, ‘Respecting John C. Bennett: I was well acquainted with him. At one time he was a good man, but fell into adultery, and was cut off from the Church for his iniquity’ (History of the Church, Vol. V., p. 81). At the time of the revelation he was a good man. But he was overcome by the adversary and made the slave of his carnal desires. The Lord knew him and warned him. ‘His reward shall not fail if he receive counsel.’ ‘He shall be great . . . if he do this,’ etc. Bennett did not heed these warning ‘ifs’ from Him who knew what was in his heart.” (Commentary, pp. 770–71.)
The Lord does not withhold present blessings because of future sinful behavior. He blessed King David as long as he was faithful and did not withhold opportunity, although he had foreknowledge of David’s future transgressions with Bathsheba. As long as one obeys, the blessings come. With the perspective of history one may be tempted to ask why the Lord chose men who would eventually falter to be leaders in the Church, but one should remember that at the time of their calling they were faithful and true.
“The Spirit of Revelation directs the Saints to build a fine hotel for the entertainment of strangers. There is no greater inducement for travelers to visit a place than good hotel accommodations. This Revelation proves that the Lord wanted the tourists of the world to visit and become acquainted with the Saints. These were not to be surrounded by a wall of isolation. They had nothing to hide from the world.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, pp. 772–73.)
A house built on the foundation of the original Nauvoo House, with original north wing
The building of the Nauvoo Temple was the fifth attempt by the Latter-day Saints to build a house of the Lord. The other attempts include Jackson County, Missouri; Kirtland, Ohio; and Far West and Adam-ondi-Ahman, Missouri. Only the Kirtland Temple was completed before the one in Nauvoo, and it was desecrated, as Brigham Young explained: “The Saints had to flee before mobocracy. And, by toil and daily labor, they found places in Missouri, where they laid the corner stones of Temples, in Zion and her Stakes, and then had to retreat to Illinois, to save the lives of those who could get away alive from Missouri, where fell the Apostle David W. Patten, with many like associates, and where were imprisoned in loathsome dungeons, and fed on human flesh, Joseph and Hyrum, and many others. But before all this had transpired, the Temple at Kirtland had fallen into the hands of wicked men, and by them been polluted, like the Temple at Jerusalem, and consequently it was disowned by the Father and the Son.” (In Journal of Discourses, 2:32.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
“Joseph Smith said . . . , ‘If a man gets a fulness of the Priesthood of God, he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord.’ [History of the Church, 5:424.]
“I hope we understand that. If we want to receive the fullness of the Priesthood of God, then we must receive the fullness of the ordinances of the house of the Lord and keep His commandments. . . .
“Let me put this in a little different way. I do not care what office you hold in this Church, you may be an apostle, you may be patriarch, a high priest, or anything else, and you cannot receive the fulness of the Priesthood unless you go into the temple of the Lord and receive these ordinances of which the Prophet speaks. No man can get the fulness of the Priesthood outside of the temple of the Lord. There was a time when that could be done, for the Lord could give these things on the mountain tops—no doubt that is where Moses got it, that is no doubt where Elijah got it—and the Lord said that in the days of poverty, when there was no house prepared in which to receive these things, that they can be received on the mountain tops. But now you will have to go into the house of the Lord, and you cannot get the fulness of the priesthood unless you go there.” (Elijah the Prophet, pp. 45–46.)
These verses are the first mention in modern scripture of baptism for the dead. In a letter written to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on 19 October 1840, the Prophet Joseph Smith said:
“I presume the doctrine of ‘baptism for the dead’ has ere this reached your ears, and may have raised some inquiries in your minds respecting the same. I cannot in this letter give you all the information you may desire on the subject; but aside from knowledge independent of the Bible, I would say that it was certainly practiced by the ancient churches; and St. Paul endeavors to prove the doctrine of the resurrection from the same, and says, ‘Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?’ [1 Cor. 15:29.]
“I first mentioned the doctrine in public when preaching the funeral sermon of Brother Seymour Brunson; and have since then given general instructions in the Church on the subject. The Saints have the privilege of being baptized for those of their relatives who are dead, whom they believe would have embraced the Gospel, if they had been privileged with hearing it, and who have received the Gospel in the spirit, through the instrumentality of those who have been commissioned to preach to them while in prison.
“Without enlarging on the subject, you will undoubtedly see its consistency and reasonableness; and it presents the Gospel of Christ in probably a more enlarged scale than some have imagined it. But as the performance of this rite is more particularly confined to this place, it will not be necessary to enter into particulars; at the same time I always feel glad to give all the information in my power, but my space will not allow me to do it.” (History of the Church, 4:231.)
The revelation explains that the ordinance of baptism for the dead is to be done only in a place designated by the Lord. Performing the ordinance was acceptable outside the temple only under special circumstances, and before the completion of the Nauvoo Temple the Lord permitted the ordinance to be performed in the Mississippi River. In October 1841 the Prophet announced that no more baptisms for the dead would be administered until the temple’s font was completed. It was finished in November, and baptisms recommenced on the twenty-first (see D&C 124:27–30).
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “The importance of the ordinances in the house of the Lord is shown in verses 37–39, (sec. 124), where we are informed that Moses was commanded to build a portable temple, generally called tabernacle, which could be carried with them in the wilderness. This tabernacle is the same temple where the boy Samuel heard the voice of the Lord. (1 Samuel, chapters one-three.) This sacred building was later replaced by Solomon’s Temple. The question is often asked, ‘What was the nature of the ordinances performed in these edifices in ancient times?’ The Lord explains this in the verses above cited. It is true that in ancient Israel they did not have the fulness of ordinances as we do today, and most, if not all, of which they were privileged to receive, very likely pertained to the Aaronic Priesthood. (See D. & C. 84:21–26.) Neither did the ancients labor in their temples for the salvation of the dead. That work was reserved until after the Savior’s visit to the spirit world where he unlocked the door to the prison and had the gospel carried to the spirits who had been confined.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:268.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught:
“What was the object of gathering the Jews, or the people of God in any age of the world? . . .
“The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation: for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose.
“It was the design of the councils of heaven before the world was, that the principles and laws of the priesthood should be predicated upon the gathering of the people in every age of the world. Jesus did everything to gather the people, and they would not be gathered, and He therefore poured out curses upon them. Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles.
“It is for the same purpose that God gathers together His people in the last days, to build unto the Lord a house to prepare them for the ordinances and endowments, washings and anointings, etc. One of the ordinances of the house of the Lord is baptism for the dead. God decreed before the foundation of the world that that ordinance should be administered in a font prepared for that purpose in the house of the Lord.” (History of the Church, 5:423–24.)
The Nauvoo Temple was the first ordinance temple built in the last dispensation.
After instructing the leaders of the Church in the temple ordinances, the Prophet Joseph Smith stated that only the spiritually minded would fully comprehend them and that they had to be revealed in the temple: “The communications I made to this council were of things spiritual, and to be received only by the spiritual minded: and there was nothing made known to these men but what will be made known to all the Saints of the last days, so soon as they are prepared to receive, and a proper place is prepared to communicate them, even to the weakest of the Saints; therefore let the Saints be diligent in building the Temple, and all houses which they have been, or shall hereafter be, commanded of God to build; and wait their time with patience in all meekness, faith, perseverance unto the end, knowing assuredly that all these things referred to in this council are always governed by the principle of revelation.” (History of the Church, 5:2.)
God’s revelations come through His servants. Their words outline the path leading to eternal life. Failure to heed their words, particularly those of the living prophet, can bring about the loss of great blessings, as President George Q. Cannon explained: “What can we do better than to show respect to our God by listening to His servant, by treating him with reverence, asking his counsel and seeking for his guidance? I know we pray to God for him, that he may be inspired from on high. Do you believe your prayers? Do you believe that God will and does inspire him? I hope you do; and I hope that having this feeling, you will be prompted to different action. . . . And shall we say that in some things we are willing to be guided; we think it right to be guided in matters of doctrine, etc.; but in other matters, just as important and necessary for the salvation and preservation of this people, we are not willing? Latter-day Saints, you cannot do it. You cannot get away from this authority and remain Latter-day Saints, for you sever yourselves from the Church of God, because everything you have is based on the recognition of this authority.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1900, p. 13.)
“The Saints generally labored diligently and with sublime self-abnegation upon the Temple, but the spirit of apostasy possessed many of the leading men in Nauvoo, as had been the case in Jackson County and in Kirtland. They polluted the sanctuary and all pertaining thereto. They brought upon themselves and the Church wrath, indignation, and judgment (v. 48). Because of their disobedience the Church was subjected to another sifting process by which the chaff was separated from the wheat.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 779.)
President Charles W. Penrose explained: “The Lord says that whenever he gives a commandment, no matter what it is about, to the children of man, and they go to with their might and endeavor to fulfil his commandment, and do that which is required of them, and they are prevented by their enemies, or by any other means, from accomplishing it, he does not require it any more at their hands. He accepts of their offering. That has applied in the past, and will apply in the future, and we should remember it. If God gives a commandment, and we do not obey it, why he revokes it, and he revokes the blessings. If he gives us a commandment to do certain things, and we find ourselves unable to do them either by restricted laws or any other obstacles in the way of physical force, the Lord requires them no more but accepts our offering, and he will visit his wrath and indignation upon those who prevent his people from accomplishing that which he required at their hands.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1924, pp. 13–14.)
The Lord reprimanded Almon Babbitt for trying to circumvent the authority of the Prophet and for his greed, which the Lord likened to setting up a golden calf. Apparently, as Smith and Sjodahl recorded, Almon Babbitt’s “chief ambition was to make money, and . . . he advised the Saints to leave Nauvoo, contrary to the counsel of the Church leaders. Perhaps he was interested in the sale of land elsewhere. At all events, when the Saints left Nauvoo, he was appointed one of the real estate agents in whose hands the abandoned property was left, to be disposed of on the best terms obtainable. How he discharged this duty, we may infer from the following statement of Heber C. Kimball: ‘My house was sold at 1,700, intended to be used to help to gather the Saints; but Almon W. Babbitt put it in his pocket, I suppose’ (Journal of Discourses, Vol. VIII., p. 350).” (Commentary, p. 784.)
“Wonderful opportunities were offered to Wm. Law, which he neglected to embrace. If he had done faithfully what God here gave him to do, he would have received the blessings promised, but when he failed to obey the Lord, even his appointment in the First Presidency could not save him from falling. When he lost the Spirit of God he became one of the most bitter enemies of the Church. Apostates and persecutors rallied around him, and he tried to form a church of his own of such material.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 785.)
Joseph Smith Sr., the Prophet’s father, was the first patriarch to the Church in this dispensation. He was succeeded as patriarch by his son Hyrum. In addition, Hyrum served as the second elder in the Church. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, after citing Doctrine and Covenants 124:94, said:
“This was a special blessing given to Hyrum Smith, and in accepting it he took the place of Oliver Cowdery, upon whom these keys had previously been bestowed. It should be remembered that whenever the Lord revealed Priesthood and the keys of priesthood from the heavens, Oliver Cowdery stood with Joseph Smith in the presence of the heavenly messengers, and was a recipient, as well as Joseph Smith, of all this authority. They held it conjointly, Joseph Smith as the ‘first’ and Oliver Cowdery as the ‘second’ Elder of the Church. Thus the law pertaining to witnesses was fully established, for there were two witnesses standing with authority, keys and presidency, at the head of this the greatest of all dispensations. When through transgression Oliver Cowdery lost this wonderful and exalted blessing, Hyrum Smith was chosen by revelation of the Lord to take his place, the Lord calling him in these words: [D&C 124:95–96].
“And thus, according to promise, the Lord opened to the vision of Hyrum Smith and showed to him those things which were necessary to qualify him for this exalted position, and upon him were conferred by Joseph Smith all the keys and authorities by which he, Hyrum Smith, was able to act in concert with his younger brother as a prophet, seer and revelator, and president of the Church, ‘as well as my servant Joseph.’” (“Patriarch Hyrum G. Smith,” Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Apr. 1932, pp. 51–52.)
The statement that Hyrum’s name will “be had in honorable remembrance from generation to generation” has been fulfilled (D&C 124:96).
Smith and Sjodahl explained some historical background of this warning:
“Sidney Rigdon, according to a generally prevailing impression, was more or less, under the influence of a spirit of apostasy. It is related that, in Liberty jail, he declared to his fellow-prisoners that the sufferings of the Lord were nothing compared with his, and while the faithful Saints were straining every nerve to complete the Nauvoo Temple, he had no word of encouragement to them. As a consequence of his disposition, he did not have good health. Like the Corinthians who partook unworthily of the Sacrament (1 Cor. 11:30), he was ‘weak and sickly.’ The Lord, therefore, points out to him the cause of his ailments and promises to heal him, if he will do his duty and stand by the Prophet as a true counselor.
“Sidney Rigdon had a remarkable experience some months after this Revelation was received. His daughter Eliza took sick and was pronounced dead by the physician. Some time after her departure, she rose up in the bed and said she had returned to deliver a message from the Lord. She then called the family around her. To her sister Nancy she said, It is in your heart to deny this work; and if you do, the Lord says it will be the damnation of your soul! To her sister Sarah she said, We have but once to die, and I would rather die now, than wait for another time. After having spoken for some time she fainted, but recovered again. The following evening she called her father and said to him that the Lord would make her well, if he would cease weeping for her. Sidney Rigdon related this manifestation of the power of God, in a public meeting on the 20th of August, 1842, and added a strong declaration of his allegiance to the Prophet Joseph and the Church. On the same occasion, Hyrum Smith cited Sidney Rigdon’s mind back to this Revelation, in which the Lord promised that if he would move into the City and defend the truth he would be healed, and showed that Rigdon’s improvement in health was a fulfilment of this Revelation (History of the Church, Vol. V., pp. 121–3). But, notwithstanding all, Rigdon finally lost his way. It can be said, however, that, according to his son, John Rigdon, who joined the Church, he never was an enemy of the Church.” (Commentary, pp. 788–89; see also History of the Church, 5:121–23.)
“Unfortunately, Foster was another man who disregarded the Lord’s counsel. After all the Prophet did to help him from time to time, he was one of the disloyal men who had Joseph Smith indicted on false charges, and he even conspired to bring about the Prophet’s death.” (Sperry, Compendium, p. 664.)
Hyrum Smith was appointed “to be a patriarch” to the Church, whereas Joseph Smith was appointed to be the “presiding elder over all my Church.” The wording of Hyrum’s appointment (see D&C 124:124) has caused some to mistakenly maintain that the office of Patriarch to the Church exceeds that of the President of the Church. After the death of Joseph and Hyrum, their younger brother, William Smith, was called to the office of Patriarch. Later some people claimed that this appointment gave him supremacy over Brigham Young and the other members of the Quorum of the Twelve. John Taylor, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, answered the claim in 1845:
“We read ‘the duty of the President of the office of the high priesthood is to preside over the whole church, and to be like unto Moses’ [D&C 107:91]. And from this it is evident that the president of the church, not the patriarch, is appointed by God to preside. . . .
“The president of the church presides over all patriarchs, presidents, and councils of the church; and this presidency does not depend so much upon genealogy as upon calling, order, and seniority. James and Joses were the brothers of Jesus [see Matthew 13:55], and John was his beloved disciple, yet Peter . . . [was given] the keys and presided over all the church. Brother William was in the quorum of the twelve yet he was not president of the twelve during his brother’s lifetime, nor since; and if being ordained a patriarch would make him president of the church, it would have made Father Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith presidents over the church instead of Joseph.
“Br. William understands the matter, and were it not for the folly of some men there would be no necessity for these remarks.” (In Times and Seasons, 1 June 1845, pp. 921–22.) Even at this early date Brigham Young had been chosen of the Lord to preside over the Twelve (see D&C 124:127).
William Smith was ordained Patriarch to the Church after the death of Joseph and Hyrum.
See Doctrine and Covenants 107:33–34, 38 and Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 107:23.
Elder David W. Patten was dead, but as President John Taylor stated:
“His being dead made no difference in regard to his priesthood. He held it just the same in the heavens as on the earth. . . .
“. . . If the priesthood administers in time and in eternity, and if quorums of this kind are organized upon the earth, and this priesthood is not taken away, but continued with them in the heavens, we do not wish, I think, to break up the order of the priesthood upon the earth; and it would seem to be necessary that these principles of perpetuity, or continuity should be held sacred among us.” (Gospel Kingdom, p. 185.)
See Doctrine and Covenants 102 and Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 107:36–37.
President Joseph F. Smith explained:
“We have in each stake of Zion an organization called the High Priests’ quorum, to which all High Priests of the Church belong, including the presidency and high councilors of the stake, and also the Bishops and their counselors, all the Patriarchs and all others who have been ordained to the office of High Priest in the Church. . . . But it is the duty of these quorums of High Priests to act in their calling; not to sit idly down and be indifferent to the interests of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nor indifferent to the saving of the souls of men. It is expected that this quorum of Priesthood in the various stakes of Zion will look after all the interests of the stake; that is, that they will teach righteousness; that they will see that those who are acting in presiding authority in the stakes of Zion, are upright, honest, pure and humble men, and fit for the positions in which they are called to act. Thus this council of the Priesthood constitutes a council of power and influence in the Church. . . .
“. . . A council or quorum of Elders is composed of 96 Elders. There may be a number of councils or quorums of Elders in each stake. . . . It is the duty of this body of men to be standing ministers at home; to be ready at the call of the presiding officers of the Church and the stakes, to labor in the ministry at home, and to officiate in any calling that may be required of them, whether it be to work in the temples or . . . whether it be to go out into the world, along with the Seventies, to preach the Gospel to the world.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1904, pp. 3–4; see also Enrichment M in the Appendix.)
The offices and quorums in the priesthood are discussed in Enrichment M and in Notes and Commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 68:15–21; 107:15–17, 68–75, 93–97.
The presentation of a new President of the Church (a reorganization of the First Presidency) follows the pattern of a solemn assembly. This pattern was first used in Kirtland, Ohio, on 27 March 1836 (see History of the Church, 2:411, 416–418; see also Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 19:118). The manner of conducting solemn assemblies was given to the Church “by revelation, the order of things as it existed in former days, away back in the dispensation before the flood—the dispensation of the antediluvian Patriarchs and their order of government” (Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 22:36).
In the reorganization of the First Presidency after the death of President Brigham Young, President John Taylor was sustained by vote, “those votes being taken first in their quorum capacity, each quorum having voted affirmatively, then by the vote of the Presidents of the several quorums united, afterwards by the vote of the quorums and people combined, men and women.” (John Taylor, in Journal of Discourses, 22:40; see also Roberts, Life of John Taylor, pp. 339–41; J. Reuben Clark Jr., in Conference Report, Apr. 1951, p. 136).
In exercising the privilege to sustain or to refuse to sustain their officers, members of the Church are acting in accordance with the principle of common consent (see Notes and Commentary for D&C 26:2).
Not all of the Saints who were driven from Missouri found refuge in Illinois. Some settled across the Mississippi River from Nauvoo, in Iowa. The revelation directing such action came in response to a question about whether they should remain in Iowa or gather to the Illinois side. One of the first to suggest that the Saints locate in Iowa was Dr. Isaac Galland, the man who had sold the land on which Nauvoo was built. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith wrote that “Mr. Galland in a communication to David W. Rogers, suggested that the Saints locate in Iowa, which was a territory; for he thought they would be more likely to receive protection from mobs under the jurisdiction of the United States, than they would be in a state of the Union, ‘where murder, rapine and robbery are admirable (!) traits in the character of a demagogue; and where the greatest villains often reach the highest offices.’ He also wrote to Governor Robert Lucas of Iowa, who had known the ‘Mormon’ people in Ohio, and who spoke very highly of them as good citizens.” (Essentials in Church History, p. 220.)
The purchase of land took place in 1839, as did the exodus from Missouri. The revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 125 was received in 1841, when many Saints were already settled in Iowa, and it is directed to them. Before the Saints arrived, there were 2,839 residents in Lee County, Iowa. By 1846 the population had swelled to 12,860—many of whom were Latter-day Saints.
This verse is one of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s requests of the Lord for further light and knowledge. The pattern for revelation is that a humble seeker asks in faith, and then the Lord answers. “Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Matthew 7:7). The Lord explained that those who remain in darkness do so because they either do not ask or ask amiss. As James explained, “Ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2).
Old photograph of Montrose, Iowa, with Nauvoo, Illinois, across the Mississippi River
The Lord spoke of the Saints gathering together “unto the places which I shall appoint” in preparation “for that which is in store in a time to come” (D&C 125:2). This revelation of March 1841 looked ahead to the exodus of the Latter-day Saints to the Rocky Mountains in 1846–47. Iowa became a temporary gathering place for those who were driven from their homes in Illinois.
The precise meaning of the word Zarahemla is not known. The term comes from the Book of Mormon account of the people who came to America from Jerusalem at the time Zedekiah was carried captive into Babylon. They were called the people of Zarahemla after the name of their leader. They lived in a city named Zarahemla, in the land of Zarahemla (see Omni 1:12–19).
It was common in Book of Mormon times to name cities “after the name of him who first possessed them” (Alma 8:7). The Latter-day Saints gave many of their settlements Book of Mormon names. For example, in Utah are such cities as Nephi, Moroni, Manti, and Bountiful.
One of the first settlements named in this way by the Saints was Zarahemla, at Nashville, Lee County, Iowa. “This settlement was founded by the Saints in 1839, on the uplands about a mile west of the Mississippi River, near Montrose and opposite Nauvoo, Ill. The Church had bought an extensive tract of land here. At a conference held at Zarahemla, August 7th, 1841, seven hundred and fifty Church members were represented, of whom three hundred and twenty-six lived in Zarahemla. But when the Saints left for the Rocky Mountains, that city was lost sight of.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 796.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “Across the river on the Iowa side, extensive holdings also were obtained. The village of Nashville, in Lee County, with twenty thousand acres adjoining, was purchased; also other lands opposite Nauvoo. Here the Prophet instructed the Saints that a city should be built, to be called Zarahemla. A number of members of the Church had located here when the Saints were driven from Missouri, and it appeared to be a suitable location for a permanent settlement of the people. . . . The idea seemed to be that the Latter-day Saints should spread out over considerable territory and form organizations in various parts of the country.” (Essentials in Church History, p. 222.)
The plan was abandoned after a stake was organized in Iowa on 5 October 1839 under the direction of Elder John Smith, the Prophet’s uncle. A short time later, on 6 January 1842, the stake itself was discontinued, but Brother Smith continued to preside over the Saints in Iowa, whose numbers were continually added to by immigrants, until the exodus to Utah. (See 1981 Church Almanac, p. 140.)
“In the month of July, 1841, the Apostles began to return to Nauvoo from their missions to Europe, and their coming was a great comfort to the Prophet in his hour of affliction. At a special conference which was held at Nauvoo on the 16th of August, 1841, shortly after the return of the Twelve, Joseph stated to the people there assembled that the time had come when the Apostles must stand in their places next to the First Presidency. They had been faithful and had borne the burden and heat of the day, giving the gospel triumph in the nations of the earth, and it was right that they should now remain at home and perform duty in Zion.” (Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith, p. 374.)
Though it was no longer required of Brigham Young to leave his family, he did fill some short-term missions. These included a mission through the states to refute slanderous charges by John C. Bennett and other apostates (September 1842 to 4 November 1842), a mission in the East to collect funds for the Nauvoo House and Nauvoo Temple (June 1843 to 22 October 1843), and a mission to campaign for Joseph Smith as a candidate for president of the United States (21 May 1844 to 6 August 1844) (see Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, pp. 330–31, 334–37, 342).
In addition to being able to spend more time with his family after this revelation than he had been able to in the previous several years, Brigham Young was also near the Prophet Joseph Smith much of the time (twenty-eight of the last thirty-six months of Joseph’s life).
It seems clear that the Lord, knowing Brigham Young’s future and the future of the Church, kept Brigham near Joseph so he could learn what he would need to know to lead the Church after Joseph’s death.
Brigham Young, successor to Joseph Smith
The Lord called Brigham Young to remain in Nauvoo and direct the work as President of the Quorum of the Twelve. The wisdom of such a move was clearly seen in later years when Brigham Young was chosen by the Lord to succeed Joseph Smith. The Prophet Joseph was the leading inspiration of Brigham Young’s life. Speaking of the time he spent in the Prophet’s presence, Brigham Young once said: “In the days of the Prophet Joseph, such moments were more precious to me than all the wealth of the world. No matter how great my poverty—if I had to borrow meal to feed my wife and children—I never let an opportunity pass of learning what the Prophet had to impart.” (In Nibley, Brigham Young, p. 28.)
President Brigham Young said: “I came into this Church in the spring of 1832. Previous to my being baptized, I took a mission to Canada at my own expense; and from the time that I was baptized until the day of our sorrow and affliction, at the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum, no summer passed over my head but what I was traveling and preaching, and the only thing I ever received from the Church, during over twelve years, and the only means that were ever given me by the Prophet, that I now recollect, was in 1842, when brother Joseph sent me the half of a small pig that the brethren had brought to him. I did not ask him for it.” (In Journal of Discourses, 4:34.)
Through his life as a member and as an Apostle, Brigham Young gave unselfishly. Whether he was at home or abroad, he supported himself and his family. In addition he assisted in financing the work through his own labor everywhere he went (see Journal of Discourses, 4:34–35).
Brigham Young was the living example of the spiritual principle taught in Lectures on Faith: “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation” (6:7).
As early as 10 August 1840, in an address at the funeral of Seymour Brunson, the Prophet introduced the doctrine of baptism for the dead to a startled congregation of Saints. Thereafter it was frequently a topic of addresses of the Brethren, and baptisms for the dead were performed in the nearby Mississippi River (see Joseph Smith Letter Book, 6 November 1838–9 February 1843, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, pp. 190–96; see also Notes and Commentary on D&C 124:29–36).
According to the minutes of the general conference of the Church held in Nauvoo on 2 October 1841, however, the Prophet declared it was the Lord’s will that baptisms for the dead stop until they could be performed in His house (see History of the Church, 4:426). The first baptisms for the dead in the uncompleted Nauvoo Temple were performed Sunday, 21 November 1841 (see History of the Church, 4:454).
By the summer of 1842 persecution had grown to the point that the Prophet Joseph Smith was forced into hiding. This revelation was given while he was staying in the home of Brother Taylor, father of John Taylor. The Prophet sent instructions by letter, as did ancient prophets, to the Saints as revelation was received, clarifying the order of baptism for the dead in the house of the Lord.
Before the Prophet Joseph sent this revelation and Doctrine and Covenants 128 to the Saints, an unknown person made a serious attempt on the life of former governor Boggs of Missouri. Orrin Porter Rockwell, a Mormon, was accused of the crime, and Joseph Smith was named as his accessory. Residents of Missouri tried to compel the governor of Illinois, Thomas Carlin, to extradite Joseph Smith to Missouri to answer these false charges. “This was a conspiracy to get the Prophet back into the hands of the Missourian mobbers. Governor Carlin of Illinois had joined in this conspiracy contrary to every principle of correct law, as it was later shown in the trial which was held in Springfield [Illinois]. . . . From his place of concealment the Prophet wrote these two letters (Sections 127 and 128 in the Doctrine and Covenants) by revelation to the Church.” (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:328.)
Orrin Porter Rockwell was blamed for the attempt on the life of Governor Boggs.
President Brigham Young asked: “Why was [Joseph Smith] hunted from neighborhood to neighborhood, from city to city, from state to state, and at last suffered death? Because he received revelations from the Father, from the Son, and was ministered to by holy angels, and published to the world the direct will of the Lord concerning his children on the earth. Again, why was he persecuted? Because he revealed to all mankind a religion so plain and so easily understood, consistent with the Bible, and so true. It is now as it was in the days of the Savior; let people believe and practise these simple, God-like truths, and it will be as it was in the old world.” (In Journal of Discourses, 18:231.)
Throughout his life the Prophet Joseph Smith was falsely accused of many evils. Men appeared in courts and gave false testimony against the Prophet, and the courts accepted this testimony while refusing to hear testimony in the Prophet’s favor. Officers of the court would invite the Church to produce the names of witnesses who could testify on the Prophet’s behalf, and then would arrest them, drive them from the country, or threaten them to keep them from testifying (see History of the Church, 3:210–13).
President Brigham Young said of this legal harassment: “Joseph, our Prophet, was hunted and driven, arrested and persecuted, and although no law was ever made in these United States that would bear against him, for he never broke a law, yet to my certain knowledge he was defendant in forty-six lawsuits, and every time Mr. Priest [a priest or a preacher] was at the head of and led the band or mob who hunted and persecuted him. And when Joseph and Hyrum were slain in Carthage jail, the mob, painted like Indians, was led by a preacher.” (In Journal of Discourses, 14:199.)
“Joseph Smith, in forty-seven prosecutions was never proven guilty of one violation of the laws of his country. They accused him of treason, because he would not fellowship their wickedness.” (Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 10:111.)
When the Prophet was compelled to flee for his life, it was necessary for him to turn his business affairs over to friends he trusted. One such friend was Oliver K. Granger, who handled the Prophet’s financial concerns after Joseph fled Kirtland in January 1838 (see D&C 117:12–15; History of the Church, 3:164–65).
Although the agents and clerks mentioned here are not given by name, it is known that William W. Phelps, William Clayton, Willard Richards, and James Sloan were clerks in the Prophet’s office at this time.
President Brigham Young said that “it was decreed in the councils of eternity, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, that [Joseph Smith] should be the man, in the last dispensation of this world, to bring forth the word of God to the people, and receive the fulness of the keys and power of the Priesthood of the Son of God. . . . He was foreordained in eternity to preside over this last dispensation.” (In Journal of Discourses, 7:289–90.) Because Satan’s purpose is to thwart the work of God, it was foreknown that the Prophet Joseph Smith would suffer trials and persecution.
In 1842 the Saints were entering a time of persecution that could have given them cause to stop working on a temple that might never be used. In fact, final work was done on the temple after the decision was made to evacuate Nauvoo in 1846. During all of the persecution, the Saints received great blessings and endowments to sustain them in the years of suffering and death that lay ahead. In the pioneer period that followed, some of the temple ordinances were available in the Endowment House. But it would be thirty-one years before a temple of the Lord was dedicated again.
The responsibility of the Latter-day Saints is unique in the history of the world. Work for the dead had been done by the Saints of the meridian of time (see 1 Corinthians 15:29), but it falls to the Latter-day Saints to accomplish the bulk of this work. In these verses the Lord gives instructions so the work can be done in an orderly, verifiable way.
“What is bound or sealed in the temples of the Lord,” wrote President Joseph Fielding Smith, “is also sealed in heaven. This is the great authority which Elijah restored. It also covers ordinances performed for the living as well as for the dead. The Prophet said that all of the ordinances for the living are required in behalf of all the dead who are entitled to the fulness of the exaltation.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:329.)
During the Nauvoo period the Lord bestowed knowledge and keys for marriage for time and eternity (see D&C 132), temples to house sacred ordinances, endowments, and baptism for the dead (see D&C 124–28).
Temple records contain the names and ordinance dates for all persons for whom temple work has been done in this dispensation. This important data is stored in computers for ease of retrieval. This kind of record keeping fulfills the Lord’s requirement for “all the records [to] be had in order” (D&C 127:9).
For the background of this revelation, see Historical Background for Doctrine and Covenants 127. The theme of work for the dead is dealt with more completely in Enrichment O in the Appendix.
Elder Rudger Clawson explained the sacred obligation of keeping accurate temple records: “In the early days of the Church, some baptisms for the dead that were not properly witnessed and recorded, were rejected of the Lord, and the work had to be done over again. We know that great care and attention is given to this matter today in our Temples, and that efficient help must be secured to do this. . . . Truly it is a great and marvelous work, and not the least important thing about it is that these ordinances are all carefully recorded in the books and are filed away in the archives of the Temple, to be brought forth in due time. From these records the people who have gone to that house will be judged. Nothing that is done in that Temple will be accepted of the Lord, except it is properly witnessed and recorded.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1900, pp. 43–44.)
Rudger Clawson stressed the importance of proper record keeping.
In these verses the Prophet Joseph Smith quotes and explains John’s statement in Revelation 20:12. The records of the work done in the temples of the Lord will be used at the judgment of the dead. Elder Bruce R. McConkie added that the scriptures become a standard of measurement in the Judgment and that the book of life that will be opened is figuratively “our own life, and being, the record of our acts transcribed in our souls, an account of our obedience or disobedience written in our bodies. Literally, it is the record kept in heaven of the names and righteous deeds of the faithful.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 97.)
The importance of records makes it urgent that the Latter-day Saints meet their obligation to the dead to complete their work and have it properly recorded “on earth” that it may be recorded “in heaven . . . ; for out of the books shall your dead be judged” (D&C 128:8). It is only through priesthood power that what we bind through sacred ordinances on earth will be bound in heaven. This binding power is part of what is meant by the phrase “the keys of the kingdom” (D&C 128:14).
President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “The Lord has placed the baptismal font in our temples below the foundation, or the surface of the earth. This is symbolical, since the dead are in their graves, and we are working for the dead when we are baptized for them. Moreover, baptism is also symbolical of death and the resurrection, in fact, is virtually a resurrection from the life of sin, or from spiritual death, to the life of spiritual life. (See D. & C. 29:41–45.) Therefore when the dead have had this ordinance performed in their behalf they are considered to have been brought back into the presence of God, just as this doctrine is applied to the living.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:332.)
The symbolism of baptism applies also to the living. When we are baptized, it is as though we are buried and resurrected with Christ. Our old, sinful natures die and we become a new person (see Romans 6:1–7). Baptism also symbolizes the physical process of being born, so that when we emerge from the waters, it is as though we have been born a second time (see John 3:5; Moses 6:59–60). For further discussion of the symbolism of baptism, see Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:323–27.
In these verses, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught the following principles:
1. The salvation of our dead ancestors is “essential to our salvation.” Our lives are closely tied to our ancestors’ lives, for we cannot become perfect without them nor they without us (D&C 128:15).
2. Baptism for the dead is the “most glorious of all subjects belonging to the everlasting gospel” (v. 17). This doctrine shows the love and mercy of an all-wise Father in Heaven. Baptism for the dead and other vicarious work makes it possible for all our Father’s children to receive the same blessings, and be judged on the same terms, whether or not they had a chance to accept the gospel in mortality. President Rudger Clawson said: “Oh, the beauty of the justice and mercy of God, who is no respecter of persons! And let it be remembered that what it takes to save one who is living; it takes just that much to save one who is dead.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1931, p. 79.)
3. Baptism for the dead helps to prevent the earth from being smitten with a curse. As President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “If Elijah had not come, we are led to believe that all the work of past ages would have been of little avail, for the Lord said the whole earth, under such conditions, would be utterly wasted at his coming. Therefore his mission was of vast importance to the world. It is not the question of baptism for the dead alone, but also the sealing of parents and children to parents, so that there should be a ‘whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories,’ from the beginning down to the end of time.
“If this sealing power were not on the earth, then confusion would reign and disorder would take the place of order in that day when the Lord shall come, and, of course, this could not be, for all things are governed and controlled by perfect law in the kingdom of God.
“Why would the earth be wasted? Simply because if there is not a welding link between the fathers and the children—which is the work for the dead—then we will all stand rejected; the whole work of God will fail and be utterly wasted. Such a condition, of course, shall not be.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:121–22.)
Elder Charles W. Penrose explained that “in this dispensation . . . will be gathered in one all things that are in Christ, not only His people gathered from the various nations to Zion to build it up, to prepare the place for His feet, but the hosts that have passed away, whom He will bring with Him. Not only are the people to be gathered together, but the glorious truths which have been made manifest in the ages that are past will all be brought forth in the dispensation in which we are living, and things kept hid from the foundation of the world will be made manifest; for the Lord has promised it; and His promises never fail of fulfillment.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1911, pp. 48–49; see also D&C 27:5–13; 124:41; 128:19–24.)
The Prophet’s joy in giving these inspired teachings moved him to write poetically. One Latter-day Saint writer formatted verses 19, 22, and 23 to show the psalm-like nature of this part of the Prophet’s letter:
Now, what do we hear in the Gospel which we have received?
A voice of gladness!
A voice of mercy from heaven;
And a voice of truth out of the earth [cf. Ps. 85:11; Isa. 29:3–4, 11–14; 2 Nephi 27:6–29].
Glad tidings for the dead;
A voice of gladness for the living and the dead;
Glad tidings of great joy [cf. Luke 2:10].
How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of those that bring glad tidings of good things,
And that say unto Zion:
Behold, thy God reigneth! [Cf. Isa. 52:7]
As the dews of Carmel,
So shall the knowledge of God descend upon them!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause?
Go forward and not backward.
Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!
Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad.
Let the earth break forth into singing.
Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise
To the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was,
That which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison;
For the prisoners shall go free.
Let the mountains shout for joy,
And all ye valleys cry aloud;
And all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King!
And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness.
Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord;
And ye solid rocks weep for joy!
And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together,
And let all the sons of God shout for joy! [Cf. Job 38:7.]
And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever!
“And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!” (Sperry, Compendium, pp. 681–83.)
The Prophet Joseph praised God for showering His blessings on the Latter-day Saints and mentioned some of the prophets of past ages who brought the keys to those blessings to this dispensation. Elder John Taylor asked: “Why was it that all these people should be associated with all these dispensations, and all could communicate with Joseph Smith? Because he stood at the head of the dispensation of the fullness of times, which comprehends all the various dispensations that have existed upon the earth, and that as the Gods in the eternal worlds and the Priesthood that officiated in time and eternity had declared that it was time for the issuing forth of all these things, they all combined together to impart to him the keys of their several missions, that he might be fully competent, through the intelligence and aid afforded him through these several parties, to introduce the Gospel in all its fullness, namely, the dispensation of the fullness of times, when says the Apostle Paul ‘He might gather all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are in earth, even in him.’ Consequently he stood in that position, and hence his familiarity with all these various dispensations and the men who administered in them. If you were to ask Joseph what sort of a looking man Adam was, he would tell you at once; he would tell you his size and appearance and all about him. You might have asked him what sort of men Peter, James, and John were, and he could have told you. Why? Because he had seen them.” (In Journal of Discourses, 18:325–26.)
President Spencer W. Kimball expressed feelings similar to the Prophet Joseph Smith’s: “Most members of the Church are aware of our intense interest in the missionary work in the Church and the appeals we have made in many lands for the rededication to preaching the gospel and preparing missionaries to carry the good news of the restoration to the people everywhere. I feel the same sense of urgency about temple work for the dead as I do about the missionary work for the living, since they are basically one and the same. I have told my brethren of the General Authorities that this work for the dead is constantly on my mind.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1978, p. 4; or Ensign, May 1978, p. 4.)
President Kimball later said:
“With the announcement just made of the construction of seven new temples, there begins the most intensive period of temple building in the history of the Church.
“The building of these temples must be accompanied by a strong emphasis on genealogical research on the part of all members of the Church.
“We feel an urgency for this great work to be accomplished and encourage members to accept this responsibility. Members do so by writing their personal and family histories, participating in the name extraction program when called to do so, completing their four-generation research, and then continuing their family research in order to redeem their kindred dead.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1980, p. 5; or Ensign, May 1980, p. 5.)
A spirit of urgency pervades family history work.
Elder Orson Pratt declared:
“We are willing to go the earth over to save the living; we are willing to build temples and administer in ordinances to save the dead; we are willing to enter the eternal worlds and preach to every creature who has not placed himself beyond the reach of mercy. We are willing to labour both in this world and in the next to save men.
“. . . Let all rejoice that the great day of the dispensation of the fulness of times has come. Let the living rejoice; let the dead rejoice; let the heavens and the earth rejoice; let all creations shout hosannah! glory to God in the highest! for he hath brought salvation, and glory, and honour, and immortality, and eternal life to the fallen sons of men.” (In Journal of Discourses, 7:90–91.)
Historically, the sons of Levi, including the sons of Aaron and the sons of Moses (see Exodus 6:16, 18, 20), were the custodians of the house of God and were responsible for its ordinances (see Exodus 25–28; Numbers 8:24–26; 10:21). Today the Lord promises that men who are called by the Lord to “build up my Church” and who are “faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling,” become the “sons of Moses and of Aaron” (D&C 84:32–34; see v. 31). The Aaronic Priesthood is responsible for the “preparatory gospel” (v. 26; see v. 27). In the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood, including temple work, “the power of godliness is manifest” (v. 20; see vv. 19–22). As righteous Saints serve the Lord in holy ordinances, including those of the temple, the sacrifice they offer through their service will be part of the “offering in righteousness” that the sons of Levi, including the sons of Moses and Aaron, will present to the Lord before His coming.
Never has a people had the opportunity to do so much for so many as do the Latter-day Saints. If they fail to fulfill their duty, they do so at the “peril of their own salvation” (Smith, Teachings, p. 193; see also p. 356). The dead cannot receive the ordinances that lead them to salvation unless they are performed by the living, and the living must bind themselves to their ancestral families for their own salvation. Little wonder that the Prophet Joseph Smith expressed such strong feeling for the Lord’s saving plan. All Saints should feel the same urgency.
In the early days of the Church, many were curious about angels, spirits, and resurrected persons. About the time Joseph Smith recorded this revelation, he wrote: “A man came to me in Kirtland, and told me he had seen an angel, and described his dress. I told him he had seen no angel, and that there was no such dress in heaven. He grew mad, and went into the street and commanded fire to come down out of heaven to consume me. I laughed at him, and said, You are one of Baal’s prophets; your God does not hear you; jump up and cut yourself: and he commanded fire from heaven to consume my house.” (History of the Church, 5:267–68.)
Doctrine and Covenants 129 describes the difference between angels who have gone through mortality and have been resurrected and those who are still spirits. It also gives three keys “whereby you may know whether any administration is from God” (v. 9).
The Prophet Joseph Smith may have known these keys long before this revelation was recorded. Earlier, Michael helped the Prophet by detecting Satan, who had appeared to Joseph as an angel of light (see D&C 128:20). Nothing further is known about the incident, and whether the Prophet learned of these keys at that time is not known. However, Wilford Woodruff recorded in his journal that he learned of these keys from Joseph Smith as early as 1839 (see Journal of Wilford Woodruff, vol. 2, 27 June 1839, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City).
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “An angel of God never has wings. Some will say that they have seen a spirit; that he offered them his hand, but they did not touch it. This is a lie. First, it is contrary to the plan of God: a spirit cannot come but in glory; an angel has flesh and bones; we see not their glory. The devil may appear as an angel of light. Ask God to reveal it; if it be of the devil, he will flee from you; if of God, He will manifest Himself, or make it manifest. We may come to Jesus and ask Him; He will know all about it.” (History of the Church, 3:392.)
God uses several types of messengers. President George Q. Cannon explained: “In the broadest sense, any being who acts as a messenger for our Heavenly Father, is an angel, be he a God, a resurrected man or the spirit of a just man; and the term is so used in all these senses in the ancient scriptures. In the stricter and more limited sense, an angel is, as the Prophet Joseph Smith states, a resurrected personage, having a body of flesh and bones; but it must be remembered that none of the angels who appeared to men before the death of the Savior could be of that class, for none of them was resurrected. He was the first-fruits of them that slept. He Himself appeared often to His servants before he took His mortal body; for instance, to the brother of Jared, to Abraham, to Moses, to the seventy Elders and to many others.” (“Editorial Thoughts,” Juvenile Instructor, 15 Jan. 1891, p. 53.)
As used in section 129, the term angel is limited to resurrected personages with bodies of flesh and bones. “Spirits of just men made perfect” are individuals who have not yet been born and are thus unembodied, or whose spirits are separated from their bodies in death and are thus disembodied. Joseph Smith earlier explained that an angel is “a resurrected or translated body, with its spirit ministering to embodied spirits.” A ministering spirit is “a disembodied spirit, visiting and ministering to disembodied spirits. Jesus Christ became a ministering spirit (while His body was lying in the sepulchre) to the spirits in prison, to fulfill an important part of His mission, without which He could not have perfected His work, or enter into His rest. After His resurrection He appeared as an angel [a resurrected being] to His disciples.” (History of the Church, 4:425; see also 1 Peter 3:18–20.)
Joseph Smith gave three grand keys for discerning angels or spirits.
No mortal person lives a perfect life. Some, however, live the gospel so well that they become, before their life is over, what the scriptures describe as “just men.” But being just is not enough. The Savior commanded, “Be ye therefore perfect” (Matthew 5:48), and we cannot do that without His help. So the scriptures speak of “just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant” (D&C 76:69; italics added).
“There are angels of various appointments and stations,” wrote President Charles W. Penrose:
“Angels are God’s messengers, whether used in that capacity as unembodied spirits, selected according to their capacities for the work required, or as disembodied spirits, or as translated men, or as resurrected beings. They are agents of Deity of different degrees of intelligence, power and authority, under the direction of higher dignitaries, and subject to law and order in their respective spheres. Elijah, who appeared with Moses on the mount of transfiguration, was a translated man; Moses at that time was either a translated man or a spirit ministering to the Savior; both acted in the capacity of angels. (Luke 9:28–33.) Enoch’s band of translated beings doubtless appeared as angels in manifestations to the patriarchs recorded in the book of Genesis [see Genesis 21:17; 22:11; 32:1].
“Angels high in authority have been clothed on special occasions with the right to represent Deity personally. They have appeared and have been recognized as God himself, just as royal ambassadors of earthly potentates have acted, as recorded in history. The Angel spoken of in Exodus 23:20–22, was one of these. So also was the Angel . . . who ministered to John on the isle of Patmos, and used the names and titles of the Son of God. (Rev. 1:1.)” (“Who and What Are the Angels?” Improvement Era, Aug. 1912, p. 950.)
If the messenger is a resurrected personage whose flesh one feels when shaking hands, the messenger is an angel from God. But spirits cannot clasp hands, since they do not have flesh and bones with which to do it. For spirits to pretend to an ability they do not possess would be deceit, and one who would attempt it would not be a “just man.” Therefore, the spirits of just men made perfect will not move when a hand is extended toward them.
Just as there are righteous spirits committed to the accomplishment of God’s work, so there are evil spirits committed to the destruction of His work. “These are fallen angels,” President Charles W. Penrose explained, “who were cast down for transgression, as mentioned by Jude (verse 6), chief among whom on this earth is Lucifer or Satan, who has sought on many occasions to appear as an ‘angel of light’ to deceive and lead astray, and who tempted the Son of God, but failed in his efforts as he did with Moses and with the Prophet Joseph Smith. (See Luke 4:1–13; . . . Moses 1:12–22; Doctrine & Covenants 128:20.) That great spiritual personage was an angel of God in his ‘first estate’, and yet never had a body of flesh, but ‘was in authority in the presence of God’ as a spirit, before he rebelled and was ‘thrust down.’ (Doctrine & Covenants 76:25–28.)” (“Who and What Are the Angels?” p. 951.)
Satan attempts to deceive by counterfeiting the light that accompanies the spirit of a just man made perfect. A just man made perfect who comes as a messenger will appear in his glory, “for that is the only way he can appear” (D&C 129:6). The Prophet Joseph Smith once said, “Wicked spirits have their bounds, limits and laws, by which they are governed . . . and, it is very evident that they possess a power that none but those who have the priesthood can control” (History of the Church, 4:576).
The Prophet taught that when the devil is offered a hand to shake, “he will offer you his hand” (D&C 129:8). The mortal will feel nothing, because the devil is an unembodied spirit. He can therefore be distinguished in this manner from a righteous spirit or angel sent from God. The just man will not attempt to deceive (see D&C 129:7); an angel of Satan will not refrain from trying to deceive.
“On the 2nd of April, 1843, the Prophet Joseph attended a meeting at which Orson Hyde spoke and, alluding to the coming of the Savior, said, ‘When He shall appear, we shall be like Him, etc. He will appear on a white horse as a warrior, and may be we shall have some of the same spirit. Our God is a warrior. It is our privilege to have the Father and Son dwelling in our hearts.’
“At dinner time the Prophet called the attention of Orson Hyde to these statements and told him that he would offer some corrections. Orson Hyde replied that they would be thankfully received, whereupon the Prophet gave the explanations contained in these paragraphs [verses 1–17], first privately and afterwards in the meeting.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, pp. 812–13.) Still later in the evening, after a meeting, the Prophet answered some questions and gave the additional instructions found in Doctrine and Covenants 130:18–23.
This verse and others (see Acts 1:11; D&C 45:48–52; 88:95) show that the Savior, when He comes, will appear just as He did at His first appearance: as a man. However, His body will be a resurrected, glorified one of flesh and bones (see Notes and Commentary on D&C 133:46–51).
The passage in question quotes Jesus as saying: “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” The Prophet Joseph explained that this statement is literal, not a figure of speech. It is a promise that the Father and the Son will appear to a person (see Teachings, pp. 149–51; see also Notes and Commentary on D&C 88:3–4).
Several scriptures suggest that the way we perceive time on earth may not be the way time really is throughout the universe. Alma 40:8 suggests that only men measure time and that to God all time is as one day. Other scriptures suggest that all things are present before the Lord (see D&C 38:2; Moses 1:6). Verses 4–7 in section 130 suggest a similar concept, namely that past, present, and future are continually before the Lord and that time is relative to the planet on which one resides.
In the twentieth century, the field of physics began to speak about time and space in a way that may help explain these revelatory statements. Albert Einstein, in the early part of this century, developed what is known as the theory of relativity. Einstein postulated that what men had assumed were absolutes in the physical world—space, gravity, speed, motion, time—were not absolutes at all but were interrelated with each other. That is why the theory was called the theory of relativity. Physicists now agree that a person’s time reference will vary depending on his relative position in space.
According to Einstein’s theory, if a body moves at very fast speeds (those approaching the speed of light, which is 186,000 miles per second), that body’s time slows down in relation to the time of a body that is on earth; and for the body in motion, space contracts or shrinks. In other words, time and space are not two separate things but are interrelated. Physicists refer to this as the space-time continuum. If an astronaut were to journey out into space at speeds approaching the speed of light, though to himself all would seem perfectly normal, to someone on earth it would appear as though his clock were ticking slower, his heart were beating slower, his metabolism operating slower, and so on. He would actually age more slowly than would a person who remained on the earth. Though the finite mind tends to reject such concepts, Einstein’s theory suggests that reality to us is a product of our relative position in the space-time continuum.
According to this theory, if a being achieved the speed of light, to that being all space would contract to the point that it would be “here” for him, and all time would slow down until it became “now” for him. The theory of relativity thus may suggest how, for a being of light and glory like God, all space and all time could be present. As difficult as such a concept is to understand, increasingly sophisticated experiments continue to substantiate Einstein’s theoretical description of the realities of the universe.
Lael Woodbury, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications at Brigham Young University, talked about man’s perception of time and God’s perception of time in an address sponsored by the Church Educational System:
“The evidence suggests that God . . . perceives time as we perceive space. That’s why ‘all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things’ [D&C 88:41]. Time, like space, is ‘continually before the Lord.’ . . .
“. . . Right now we perceive music in time as a blind man perceives form in space—sequentially. He explores with his fingers, noting form, texture, contours, rhythms. He holds each perception in his mind, one by one, carefully adding one to the other, until he synthesizes his concept of what that space object must be like. You and I don’t do that. We perceive a space object immediately. We simply look at it, and to a certain degree we ‘know it. We do [not] go through a one-by-one, sequential, additive process. We perceive that it is, and we are able to distinguish it from any other object.
“I’m suggesting that God perceives time as instantaneously as we perceive space. For us, time is difficult. Lacking higher facility, we are as blind about time as a sightless man is about space. We perceive time in the same way that we perceive music—sequentially. We explore rhythm, pitch, amplitude, texture, theme, harmonies, parallels, and contrasts. And from our perceptions we synthesize our concept of the object or event—the musical artwork—that existed in its entirety before we began our examination of it.
“Equally complete now is each of our lives before the Lord. We explore them sequentially because we are time-blind. But the Lord, perceiving time as space, sees us as we are, not as we are becoming. We are, for him, beings without time. We are continually before him—the totality of our psyches, personalities, bodies, choices, and behaviors.” (Continually before the Lord, Commissioner’s Lecture Series [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1974], pp. 5–6.)
Einstein’s theory is only a theory, although it is being substantiated again and again as a valid representation of reality. How God operates through the vastness of space and the eternity of time has not been revealed in specific detail, but what information man has been given can be harmonized with what physicists are discovering about the interrelationship of space and time.
Time is relevant to mortality.
See Notes and Commentary on Doctrine and Covenants 129:1–4.
Angels live “in the presence of God” (D&C 130:7). As messengers of the Most High, they minister among His children. The scripture states that the place where God and the angels live is one vast “Urim and Thummim” (v. 8). All things necessary for the angels’ glory is manifest to them there: the past, the present, and the future.
President Brigham Young said, “When it [the earth] becomes celestialized, it will be like the sun, and be prepared for the habitation of the saints, and be brought back into the presence of the Father and the Son, it will not then be an opaque body as it now is, but it will be like the stars of the firmament, full of light and glory; it will be a body of light. John compared it, in its celestial state, to a sea of glass.” (In Journal of Discourses, 7:163.)
At another time he said: “This earth, when it becomes purified and sanctified, or celestialized, will become like a sea of glass; and a person, by looking into it, can know things past, present, and to come; though none but celestialized beings can enjoy this privilege. They will look into the earth, and the things they desire to know will be exhibited to them, the same as the face is seen by looking into a mirror.” (In Journal of Discourses, 9:87.)
Angels are in a state wherein they possess “all things for their glory” (D&C 130:7). The same is true of God and all exalted beings. Those who obtain celestial glory obtain knowledge of all inferior kingdoms, or “kingdoms of a lower order” than the one on which they live (D&C 130:9). They also receive, as verse 10 makes clear, a personal Urim and Thummim in the form of a “white stone.” This stone becomes the means “whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms” are placed in their possession (v. 10). Individuals are initially prepared for these great blessings by keeping God’s commandments and receiving an endowment in the house of God, as President Joseph Fielding Smith explained:
“The ordinances of the temple, the endowment and sealings, pertain to exaltation in the celestial kingdom, where the sons and daughters are. The sons and daughters are not outside in some other kingdom. The sons and daughters go into the house, belong to the household, have access to the home. ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions’ [John 14:2]. Sons and daughters have access to the home where he dwells, and you cannot receive that access until you go to the temple. Why? Because you must receive certain key words as well as make covenants by which you are able to enter. If you try to get into the house, and the door is locked, how are you going to enter, if you haven’t your key? You get your key in the temple, which will admit you.
“. . . You cannot find a key on the street, for that key is never lost that will open the door that enters into our Father’s mansions. You have got to go where the key is given. And each can obtain the key, if you will; but after receiving it, you may lose it, by having it taken away from you again unless you abide by the agreement which you entered into when you went into the house of the Lord.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:40–41.)
Section 87 foretells a war between the northern and southern sections of the United States. The Prophet Joseph Smith learned of this impending war on Christmas Day 1832, and these verses written eleven years later are a second mention of the same disaster. (See Notes and Commentary on D&C 87:1.)
The early disciples asked Jesus the same question just before His death (see Matthew 24:3; JS—M 1:4). At that time He told them that not even the angels know the exact time (see Matthew 24:36; JS—M 1:40). However, He did reveal the signs that would precede that great event so His disciples could recognize its approach.
The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote:
“I was once praying earnestly upon this subject [the time of the coming of the Son of Man], and a voice said unto me, ‘My son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years of age, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man.’ I was left to draw my own conclusions concerning this; and I took the liberty to conclude that if I did live to that time, He would make His appearance. But I do not say whether He will make his appearance or I shall go where He is. I prophesy in the name of the Lord God, and let it be written—the Son of Man will not come in the clouds of heaven till I am eighty-five years old. . . .
“Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed [see Ezekiel 47:8–12]. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple, &c.; and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make His appearance. There will be wars and rumors of wars, signs in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, the sun turned into darkness and the moon to blood, earth quakes in divers places, the seas heaving beyond their bounds [see D&C 29:14–20; 34:9; 45:31–42; 88:87–91]; then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven [see D&C 88:93]. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, &c. But the Son of Man will come as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east.” (History of the Church, 5:336–37; see also D&C 43:20–27.)
“It is fair to conclude that spiritual and mental growth can be attained only by obedience to the laws on which they are predicated,” wrote Elder Albert E. Bowen. “If through diligence, observance of correct principles, discipline of the mind and of the spirit, a man attains to a fine development of personality in this life, surely it is not unreasonable to suppose that that will be his imperishable possession and glory in the life he enters upon after death. On the contrary, if through lethargy or sin his self-realization in his life is dwarfed, he shall be handicapped to that extent as he enters upon the new world.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1937, p. 86.)
Obedience is the basic law of heaven, and obedience to specific laws will result in specific blessings, culminating in the greatest blessing, as Elder Marion G. Romney explained: “The perfection upon which exaltation hangs, I repeat, is an individual matter. It is conditioned upon the observance of celestial laws as they apply to earth life. The Word of Wisdom is one of them, so also are chastity, tithing, observance of the Sabbath day, prayer, honesty, industry, love of God and fellow men, patience, kindness, charity, and all the rest of the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each individual who observes one or more of these laws shall receive the blessings predicated thereon, and each Church member who will, with all the energy of his soul, diligently strive to live them all, shall receive the blessings predicated upon such striving. Eternal life, the greatest gift of God, is that blessing, and it will follow the living of the gospel as the night the day, regardless of statistics or averages, or of what others think or say or do.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1956, pp. 15–16; see also Enrichment G in the Appendix.)